The Nationals have shown an incredibly bad offense this month, and almost all of this year. It’s hard to remember that they actually did quite well from the second week in June to the second week in July. Other than that, though… nada.

Well, this isn’t football, so they can’t replace the offensive scheme. The only thing that can be done is messing with the actual players.When you start to look at the problems you inevitably think about trading away players, preferably for better ones.

Well, forget about who you might actually be able to trade away for a minutes. Instead, let’s see which positions could be improved.

I took a look at every starting position player, and where they rank among their National League counterparts in terms of the main “slash line” offensive categories. Then I also showed where they rank when you average of those 4 results. I ranked it by that final average.

I highlighted those above average in blue, and those below in red, and also added the minimum number of PAs I needed to get as close to 15 players per position on the ranking. The numbers may surprise you:

Position Player Ranks 7-25-13

So it turns out, the Nats are doing quite well in this space. Nobody is completely dominating the league anymore, thanks to a 3 week offensive slump, but even after that, they still do really well. Here are a few observations

  • Ian Desmond, Ryan Zimmerman, Bryce Harper, Wilson Ramos, and Jayson Werth all rank, not just in the top hald (as the color indicates) but in the top 3rd of players at their position on offense. 5 of the Nats starters are top 5 in the NL at their position.
  • Werth, Desmond and Harper are actually Top 3 OPS players in their position.
  • Anthony Rendon is only slightly above average, but this is 202 PAs into his major league career. It’s more than just promising, it’s good now, and it will likely be better.
  • Denard Span doesn’t rank as poorly as I expected. I thought he’d be in the bottom third of every category. Still… it aint good.
  • Adam LaRoche is just below the average among 1Bs. He’s not in the bottom third, but there are some complete train wrecks below him like Juan Francisco, Greg Dobbs, Ike Davis and Yuneski Betancourt.
  • Span and LaRoche are neck and neck in terms of who is the bigger drag on the team right now, despite the fact that LaRoche’s offensive numbers look much better, thanks to the positions they play.

Where does this leave us? Well, it’s more evidence that this team isn’t doing a terrible job of hitting, they just can’t score at all. It’s that weird combination of untimely hitting and bases empty HRs that have lead them to this point:

Some of that is probably pressure, but alot of it is plain dumb luck. I’ve been saying this for a while, that while clutch hitting exists, evidence shows that clutch hitters probably don’t. At least not in the way most people think. There was a great article written just other day about it on SBNation, which I highly recommend.

But my point isn’t to shatter illusions of what clutch might be. My point is simply that I don’t think they are not hitting with RISP because they mentally can’t. Sure, they might be pressing a bit, but this kind of stuff goes away. They will hit with runners in scoring position. The problem is, when they do, it might be too late in the season for it to matter.

Meanwhile, back to the original topic – who needs to be replaced? Solid arguments can be made that both Span and LaRoche should be moved. Both because of their contract status, and their performance. But the rest of the hitters are under team control for quite a while – and that is a very good thing. Because the rest of these guys can really hit, and there really aren’t many that are going to walk through the door that will be better than these guys, relative to their competition.

The fact remains, they have the horses, and they should be able to score. That’s part of the reason that they were picked by so many to go so far this year.  They’re just not actually scoring, and that is why so many of us appear to be wrong. But changing around this team? I’m not sure how that would help.

Note: Wilson Ramos did not qualify with 250 PAs, that is just where he would rank if he did, with the same numbers. In both the rankings for C and 2B, I removed the Nats current backup players (Lombardozzi and Suzuki) from the total number of players’ ranked.

By Charlie